By Pastor Glenn Pease
Shakespeare died on his fifty second birthday and left what is considered the most famous will in existence. Among his last wishes were instructions to chisel this hex on his tombstone. "Bless be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones." The intention was to threaten grave robbers, but it also prevented his friends from ever moving him, and the result is, the bones of this man, whom many consider the greatest writer of all time, lies not in the famous Poet's Corner of Westminister Abbey, the resting place of many a lesser poet, but in there original plot of Holy Trinity Church. Here is an interesting example of how a dead person can still control the living. He was getting his will done even after he was dead.
The beautiful Ines de Castro was murdered in her royal apartment in 1355. Several years later she became the Queen of Portugal. Pedro I so loved Ines that when he became king in had her body exhumed and dressed in royal robes and securely tied to a lavished throne. A mere skeleton of her former self, she held a scepter and was bowed to by the clergy, nobility, and the commoner. Some mighty unusual experiences can happen to dead people because they have power and influence even after they are dead.
The apostle Paul goes so far as to say that all Christians have an after death power, and an after death experience of royalty, and reigning with Christ even before they die physically and enter heaven. There is an after death experience even before we die, for Paul writing to the living Christians of Colosse says in 3:3, "For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." This is indeed a mystery and a paradox, but in some sense the Christian has already passed away. Paul said, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new."
In Christ we have died. The body dies with the head. Baptism is a symbol of that death and resurrection to the new life. The Christian is one of wonders of the world, for he has already died and gone to heaven, and yet he is alive on earth making an impact of greater or lesser degree. The degree to which we recognize where our real life is, is the degree to which we have an impact on this life.
If we see that our real life is the life now hidden with God, we set our affections on things above. That is where our life is. Our citizenship is in heaven. Our Lord and our eternal home are all there. The second coming is exciting because Paul says that is when our hidden life will become visible. When Christ appears the life of all believers will appear with Him in glory. When the head becomes manifest the whole body will be manifest, and not only will we see Christ, but we will see our own hidden life. The Christian is sort of a dual personality with a hidden life in heaven, and a visible life on earth.
Paul is telling us that it is possible to be so unheavenly minded you are no earthly good. That is a switch from the usual idea of being so heavenly minded you are no earthly good. His whole point here is that Christians can fail to be heavenly minded, and fail to set their affections on things above, and instead, set them on earthly things. When they do this, they began to slip back into their old life of immorality and idolatry.
Why do Christians do the terrible things they do? Christians do every sin man is capable of doing. Why? Because they do not focus on their real life and ultimate goal, but on the earthly, and that which will pass away. The Christian that does not get in touch with his hidden heavenly life, but lives only for the flesh, will be a worldly and carnal Christian. Only the Christian who is really heavenly minded, and who knows where his real values are, can live the truly Christian life on this earth. In other words, only the Christian who is really dead can really live. The deader you are to this world, and the more alive you are to heavens values, the more you will live even now. Being heavenly minded does not rob you of life, but fills you with life.
This may sound very mystical and impractical, but the fact is, nothing is more practical as a foundation for living a successful Christian life. Every time a Christian fails to be a Christian in his or her thinking or acting, it is because they take their mind off the hidden life of heaven, and focus it on the earthly things, and thus become earthly rather than heavenly minded.
On the other hand, when we pray, "Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," we will have the mind that becomes a channel of the heavenly life to flow into time and give us victorious Christian living. You can do the earth no greater good than to be heavenly minded with your affections set on things above.
Your life is hid with Christ in God. Your life is the treasure.
Christ is the treasurer.
God is the treasury.
Here is the basis for true self-esteem . This goes way beyond the self-esteem on the earthly level. The Christian has a self he has never met yet. The self that is hidden with God. You talk about self exaltation. This is the top of the line level of self-esteem-a life that is of such worth and value that God keeps it hidden in heaven where nothing can touch it or corrupt it.
Shakespeare was right when he wrote-,"It is but a base, ignoble mind that mounts no higher than a bird can soar." But the Christian mind is to soar beyond the eagles height, beyond the mountain heights, beyond the staggering heights of astronomy into the very presence of God where his life is hidden. Jane Pasco wrote-
Father! Forgive the heart that clings
Thus trembling to the things of time,
And bid my soul, on angel's wings
Ascend into a purer clime.
No one can ever accuse Paul of pointing the Christian in any other way but up. In verse 1 he says set your hearts on things above, and in verse 2 he says set your minds on things above. The Christian in both emotion and in intellect is to focus on the upward, or heavenly life. Heavenly hearts and heads is the Christian goal. He not only pointed this way, he pressed on this way in his own life, and in Phil. 3:14 he writes, "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called my heavenward in Christ Jesus." Heavenward is the same Greek word Paul uses in our text for setting your heart and mind on things above. The same word is used when Jesus looked up and prayed to His father in heaven. Jesus used it again in John 8:23 when he said to the Pharisees, "You are from below, I am from above."
The point is, the heart and mind of the follower of Christ is to be focused upward. The very words up and down have strong psychological meaning. When you are up and on top of the world you are having a taste of heaven on earth, and you are happy. But when you are down and beneath the circumstances, you are in dumps, and do not see or feel the light and joy of the heavenly. Down is negative and up is positive. The fall of man takes him down, but the resurrection in Christ takes him up. The whole gospel can be conveyed by these two directions. Heaven and hell are these two directions.
Even the secular goal of the drug addict is to get a high, for to be up is there equivalent of setting the affections on things above. It is the secular substitute for being heavenly minded, and like secular substitutes, it deceives and really takes one down.
The Christian is to get his or her high by being heavenly minded and hearted, and by ever focusing on the upward way. Prov. 15:24, "The path of life leads upward for the wise." Annie Johnson Flint wrote, "My Resolution" that goes like this-
I won't look back; God knows the fruitless efforts,
The wasted hours, the sinning, the regrets:
I leave them all with Him who blots the record,
And mercifully forgives, and then forgets.
I won't look forward; God sees all the future,
The road that, short or long, will lead me home,
And He will face with me it's every trial,
And bear with me the burdens that may come.
But I'll look up--into the FACE of JESUS,
For there my weary heart can rest, my fears are stilled;
And there is joy and love and light for darkness,
And perfect peace, and every hope fulfilled.
Like many a pilot in a storm learns that the best way out is up, and they climb through the darkness of the clouds into the brilliance of sunlight above, so the Christian needs to learn that the answer to every earthly cloud that darkens life is to climb and set the heart and mind on things above.
When you are not sure which way to turn, and what direction to go, listen to the Word of God which always points one way-up.
Lift up your hearts! We lift them up!
Up and still up, yea, very far
Beyond the furthest glimmering star.
Up far beyond the jar and fret
Which do our daily path beset,
Beyond the weary wordy strife
With which the world around is rife.
Up to the heights where love hath birth,
Still up, beyond the loves of earth.
Is it to high, O struggling saint?
Do flesh and spirit sink and faint?
One from the height hath stooped low
To strengthen thee to rise up so.
He calls thee now with Him to sup,
He breaks the bread, He fills the cup.
Lift up your hearts! We lift them up!
The upward look changes how you see life all about you. If you know you are going to live forever, it helps you greatly to avoid the folly of temporal temptations. It is those who have no heaven to look up to who say, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." They give themselves to the sensual, for that is all they have. The Christian escapes this low level of life by looking up. Heaven is to be like a magnet that draws us, and delivers us from the pole of the world.
It is not only okay, it is a vital part of successful Christian living to know all you can about heaven. Many quote Paul in I Cor. 2:9 which says, "No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him..." They fail to go on to the next verse which says, "But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit." Paul was quoting Isaiah and the Old Testament limitations, but then goes on to tell the New Testament advance. Many quote the Old Testament limitation as if it was still valid, and say we don't know enough about heaven to focus on it. This is a rejection of the very revelation Paul is talking about. Result is, many Christians do not focus on heaven, for they think it is mainly a mystery, and mostly hidden. The fact is, most Christians do not know a fraction of what God has revealed to us about our eternal home. Our prayer needs to be-
I want to live as one who knows
Thy fellowship of love,
As one whose eyes can pierce beyond
The pearl-built gates above.
The poet has captured the very essence of Paul's teaching on heaven, for Paul makes it clear to these Colossian Christians that there love on earth springs from their hope of heaven, and their faith in time is based on their hope for eternity. Paul stated it clearly in 1:5, "The faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you heaven." In other words, the most loving Christians, and those with the strongest faith, are those who have a lively hope in heaven.
Show me a Christian who is unloving and a problem to other Christians, and who is weak in faith, and ever stumbling, and I'll show you a Christian whose affections are not on things above, but on things below. They have no great vision of their destiny, no great hope of heavenly happiness. They are slaves to the pull of earth and circumstances, and do not have the hope to rise above them. Heavenly mindedness is a key to healthy mindedness. Show me the Christian who falls, and I'll show you a Christian who looked down rather than up, and lost the heavenly perspective that could have prevented the fall. We need constant reminders to focus our affections on the things God has revealed to us about heaven.
I like the way the poet put it, and especially the way he ends the poem.
I have read of a beautiful city,
Far away in the kingdom of God;
I have read how it's wall are of jasper,
How its streets are all golden and broad,
In the midst of the street lies a river
Clear as crystal and purer to behold;
But not half of that city's bright glory
Two mortals has ever been told..
The king there in his beauty
Without a veil is seen;
It were a well-spent journey
Though seven deaths lay between.
All we have to endure is one death of the body, but the fact is heaven is worth seven deaths, or seventy times seventy, for it is life at its best forever. All negatives are gone.
No chilling winds, or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more.
Then, if you put together all of the positives that will be there, plus the wide open statements that entice us to speculate about our wildest dreams, heaven is worth any price that has to be paid. God gave His Son, and Jesus gave His life, and that shows just how infinite in worth it is to them to have the redeemed experience heaven.
Listen to these broad promises that make it impossible to think thoughts so grand they go beyond what we can hope for in heaven. In Eph.2:6-7 Paul writes, "And God raised us up with Him in the heavenly realm in Christ Jesus in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus." Dr. Bob Smith use to emphasize that this verse is saying, God is going to show just how kind He can be to those who have loved His Son. You tell me how you can imagine anything that would surpass the incomparable riches of God's grace. People worry lest we make heaven seem greater than it really will be. What a joke! When we have dreamed and fantasized and speculated to the extent of our imagination, we will have but scratched the surface of the glory that will be revealed to us. For heaven's sake don't fear that men can embarrass God by holding forth promises of glory greater than God can fulfill.
Even the Old Testament hope was glorious. Ps. 84:11 says, "No good thing doth He withhold from those who walk is blameless." Ps.37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." If this be true on earth, how much greater will God generosity be in heaven? If its good, it will be a part of heaven, for it is God's delight to grant His children the desires of their heart. We cannot know now what we will desire in heaven. We know our desires will rise above the mirror material security level, for these will be satisfied beyond our dreams, but we will be free to develop desires for far higher and creative goals.
We will no longer be limited by our 10% usage of our brain, but will have 100%. All of us will be more intelligent in heaven. Our creativity and imagination will be at least 10 times greater, and there is no way we can know what adventures we will desire. All I know is that if I had a chance of getting all I could now imagine, or letting God make the choice for me, I would go with God's choice, for my wildest imagination and creative dreaming would look like a deserted barn compared to the glorious mansion God has prepared. Thomas Moore wrote,
Take all the pleasures of all the spheres,
And multiply each through endless years,
One minute of heaven is worth them all.
That, of course, is excessive language, for if heaven was for one minute only it would be terrible to lose it, and then anything else would be hell. But the point is true, that one minute of God's infinite grace in heaven would be a pleasure greater than all the pleasures of life.
Our hope of heaven is what enables us to endure the hard times of life where there is little pleasure and much pain. When happiness and health slip away, and the burdens of life get heavy, the Christian has a solid source of joy in his heavenly hope, and can say with the poet-
Gone, they tell me is youth,
Gone the strength of my life,
Nothing remains but decline,
Nothing but age and decay.
Not so! I am God's little child,
Only beginning to live.
Coming the days of my prime.
Coming the strength of my life,
Coming the vision of God,
Coming my bloom and my power!
For a child of God the best is always yet to be if they listen to Paul, and have heavenly hearts and heads.